TEHRAN – The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations nuclear watchdog walked out of an agency meeting on Wednesday in protest when Iran’s representative accused Washington’s ally Israel of “genocide”, diplomats were quoted as saying by Reuters on Wednesday.
Officials from Canada and Australia also left the closed-door meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation governing board when Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh made his statement during a debate on Syria, they said.
They later returned to the closed-door IAEA meeting, where such action is unusual though it has happened before in other international forums.
U.S. envoy Joseph Macmanus’s walkout highlighted tensions with Tehran a few hours after he accused the Islamic Republic of a “commitment to deception, defiance, and delay” in addressing IAEA concerns about its nuclear program.
The European Union also used the meeting to call on Iran to stop obstructing an IAEA investigation and give the agency access to sites and documents, regardless of broader talks between Iran and world powers that resumed last week.
“Iran is inviting further isolation, pressure, and censure from the international community… until it meets its obligations and addresses the board’s concerns,” Macmanus said.
During the debate on Iran, which happened before the board turned its attention to Syria, Soltanieh said the allegations over his country’s nuclear work were “baseless” and suggested the IAEA, not Tehran, was to blame for the failure so far to revive the stalled inquiry.
Saying UN inspectors had found no evidence of any diversion of nuclear material or activities to military purposes, Soltanieh told the board, “Nuclear weapons have no place in the defense doctrine of Iran.”
Macmanus accused Iran of “provocative actions”, particularly the installation of advanced centrifuges that would enable it to speed up its uranium enrichment.
Western countries claim Iran is enriching uranium to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons and have imposed several rounds of sanctions. Iran says the program is legitimate and intended for purely peaceful purposes.
Yukiya Amano, the 65-year-old Japanese diplomat appointed to a second four-year term as head of the IAEA on Wednesday, said his aim was to help resolve the Iran nuclear issue through diplomatic means.
“For that I need cooperation from Iran,” he told reporters.
The Vienna-based IAEA has been trying for more than a year to persuade Iran to give it the access it says it needs for its investigation.
Iran has refused IAEA requests to visit the Parchin military site.
Iran says it first needs to agree with the IAEA on how the inquiry is to be conducted before allowing any Parchin visit.
In late April, six world powers resumed talks with Iran aimed at finding a diplomatic settlement to the decade-long nuclear row between Iran and the West. The only progress was an agreement to hold more talks.
The United States, China, France, Russia, Britain, and Germany offered modest relief from economic sanctions in return for Iran scaling back its nuclear activity.
Iran called the talks a potential “turning point,” but Western officials were more cautious, merely describing the meeting as “useful”.
As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has legal right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
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